"For my stupidest of all..." (Price of books)
Posted by The Mysterious H.C. on November 05, 1997 at 17:34:45:
In response to How much did a novel cost in The Regency?, written by Mary Collette on November 04, 1997 at 13:21:22
] My question is how much did one pay for a novel of two or three volumes such as they were published? How much would be in late twentieth century English and American money?
Mary -- As Pride and Prejudice was coming out, Jane Austen wrote (letter of January 29 1813) --
"The advertisement is in our paper to-day for the first time: 18 shillings. He shall ask 1 pound 1 shilling for my two next, and 1 pound 8 shillings for my stupidest of all."
A pound (=twenty shillings) basically represented the living exepnses of an entire working class family for a week and a half or so (with much local etc. variation), so it was not a trivial sum.
The term "penny dreadfuls" refers to mid- or late-Victorian "sensational" novels bound in one volume, having a lower price (due to improvements in printing, higher print runs, cutting corners, etc.), and aimed more towards individual purchases by members of the lower middle classes or below (while the 3-volume novels of Jane Austen's time were aimed more towards selling to lending libraries, where they would be rented out to more or less "genteel" individuals).
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